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'A Total Joke': 'Independent' Review of NSA Not Actually Independent

New report shows review board functions under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and is comprised of White House insiders

Sarah Lazare

The panel of 'outside' experts, appointed by President Obama to investigate the controversial NSA spying program for civil liberties violations, is not independent at all, but rather, functions under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and is comprised of Democratic Party insiders, Associated Press revealed in a report released Sunday.

The review panel operates under the very office that oversees the NSA programs the panel is supposed to investigate. Associated Press reports:

[W]ith just weeks remaining before its first deadline to report back to the White House, the review panel has effectively been operating as an arm of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the NSA and all other U.S. spy efforts.

The panel's advisers work in offices on loan from the DNI. Interview requests and press statements from the review panel are carefully coordinated through the DNI's press office. James Clapper, the intelligence director, exempted the panel from U.S. rules that require federal committees to conduct their business and their meetings in ways the public can observe. Its final report, when it's issued, will be submitted for White House approval before the public can read it.

Even the panel's official name suggests it's run by Clapper's office: "Director of National Intelligence Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies."

Furthermore, the people who comprise the panel have demonstrated ties to Democratic presidents. Associated Press reveals:

Four of the five review panel members previously worked for Democratic administrations: Peter Swire, former Office of Management and Budget privacy director under President Bill Clinton; Michael Morell, Obama's former deputy CIA director; Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism coordinator under Clinton and later for President George W. Bush; and Cass Sunstein, Obama's former regulatory czar. A fifth panel member, Geoffrey Stone of the University of Chicago, leads a university committee looking to build Obama's presidential library in Chicago and was an informal adviser to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald, who broke the NSA spying story, slammed the panel in the following tweet sent Sunday.

As Common Dreams previously reported, the first meeting of the "oversight" panel was slammed by some attendees as a gathering of "intelligence insiders" that did not question the basic ethics of NSA spying programs. 

Obama convened the panel in an early August speech in which declared that "outside experts" to look into NSA surveillance policies and produce a report within 60 days in response to mass outrage about secret spying. Obama claimed the aim of the panel was to "consider how we can maintain the trust of the people, how we can make sure that there absolutely is no abuse in terms of how these surveillance technologies are used."

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